Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Almost Time!

According to the clock in the corner of my laptop, the time is now 9:43 EDT. In two hours and 18 minutes I will write the first words of my NaNo novel for 2007.

Of course, I have no idea what I'm going to write. I've had a few stories in mind, but none of them seemed quite right. I hope that in two hours and 17 minutes I'll have a burst of inspiration.

I won't stay up all night, though I'd like to. I'm a teacher again--part-time, anyway. I can't while my days away in my t-shirt and sarong. And tomorrow night, at the latest, I have to make up some tests.

Life goes on in November. But I fully intend to complete the challenge.

Now if I just had a character and a plot. . .

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Still Good Advice

I'm very tired tonight, so I'll keep this short.

Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write.

(I can't remember which famous author said this. I'll have to look it up. But not tonight.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Unpleasant Choice

I've mentioned the recent plot twist. The problem is, I couldn't see exactly where it would take me.

So on Saturday I asked my 21-year old. He's not a writer and he doesn't like to write but he does read and watch movies. He knows plots.

I went through the story with him, exploring every turn. In the end he persuaded me I had only one choice. I was trying to avoid that. Innocent people will die, in a literary sense. But it was the only one I could go ahead with the story.
This choice will lend additional drama to the plot. But I want my readers to remember that when writers kill our characters, whether major or minor, it's often a difficult decision. (The movie, Stranger Than Fiction, definitely resonated with me.) But whether we like it or not, sometimes it must be done for the good of the story.

I killed one of my favorite characters in Echoes. I didn't mean to kill him, but he simply became too sick to live. That was my introduction to character death. In Silence, as in Turbulence, death will be one of the themes. And I feel that I don't have any other way.

P.S.--I am a literary killer, but of course that is as far as it goes. How do other writers feel about fictional murder?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In a Holding Pattern

In six more days I can start my NaNoWriMo 2007 novel. I have one strong idea, and a few I'm still considering. I'll decide when I sit down to write on November 1.

I'm still working on revisions for Silence. But I think I need a break. I don't know if I can go six days without writing. I've rarely tried it.

I am reading another novel. I won't give anything away yet, but it's good. When I'm finished, I'm sure I'll want to review it here.

So I'm waiting. Until I discovered NaNoWriMo, I never knew November could be exciting. It's a great way to spend an autumn day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's Time for Nanowrimo!

And most of the people say, "What?"

Next month--next Thursday, to be exact--the challenge begins. Will you be one of the thousands to complete a 50,000 word novel during the month of November? Come on. I know you can do it.

This will be my second year. I can hardly wait. I don't have a firm story in mind yet. Only a couple strong possibilities. When I sit down to write on November 1, I'll know which one I'm going with.

I've persuaded two of my sons to join me this time so it will be extra fun. I hope they don't give up part way through. We'll see.

Are you ready to Nano?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Satisfying Moments

I mentioned the plot twist I came up with at the bathroom sink. Today I put my plan into motion. And it works!

I'm very excited, and if you're a writer I'm sure you understand. The old way just wasn't working. It was okay, but it wasn't good enough. This is just what my story needed.

Let's hear it for those "Aha" moments.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Inspiring Places

The Grand Canyon? The Appalachians? The Painted Desert?

No. I'm talking about my bathroom. The bathroom sink, to be specific. I was washing my hands there this past Saturday when suddenly it came to me. I knew what I was missing in the book I'm working on. It came to me with perfect clarity. For the last two days I've started writing in the plot change, and it works beautifully.

It's happened to me in the shower. It's happened while I was driving. I may be washing dishes or waking up from a nap. Suddenly it comes. Inspiration. Total clarity.

The Grand Canyon is wonderful, but if I ever get stuck in my story I think I'll just take a trip to the bathroom.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gotta Sleep

I've read that some inventors and other "famous smart people" slept very little. I won't quote the names here for fear of being wrong, but some, it is said, had only 2 or 3 hours of sleep every night.

Ah, I wish that it were so for me. Alas, I do need my sleep. This is troublesome, because my creativity flows most freely in the middle of the night.

When I can get away with it, I go to bed sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. I would stay up longer but I can't get by with a nocturnal lifestyle. I have family and obligations. So I reluctantly shut down my laptop and find little tasks to complete before eventually climbing into bed. I fall asleep very soon after my head meets the pillow, though I try to read--until the words begin dancing around. I sleep soundly. In the morning I'm amazed at all the sounds I didn't hear.

But I can't stay up all night. I can't live with only 2 or 3 hours sleep. To sleep. . .perchance to dream. Hey, maybe I'll get another idea for a story!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Statement

When I was in school, I learned how to write a research report around a thesis statement. I knew that once I wrote that first paragraph and that crucial sentence I was well on my way to finishing my report.

Writing fiction does not include a thesis statement. Not exactly. But a good story can be written around a statement. Maybe a quote.

I've written quite a bit in this blog about my book, Silence. I have the plot, the characters, the twists. I've revised the manuscript twice so far. But something was missing.

Last night while I was browsing news articles I found a quote. This particular quote is exactly what I needed. This is the statement I can use to keep my story grounded and focused.

The Statement. That's the missing piece. Now I expect this story to really come together.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Well. . .

It's been a long, busy day and I'm tired.

So. . .Eid Mubarak!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

In the Name of God

I just finished reading a young adult novel titled In the Name of God, written by Paula Jolin. Both the title and the front cover--a girl reading the Qur'an--attracted me when I came across this book in the library.

I looked at the ratings for this book on Amazon. All readers highly recommended the book. I noticed too that all readers, like Ms. Joline, were non-Muslims.

As a Muslim, I had a different response. The book made me very uncomfortable. The story is of a 17-year old Syrian girl named Nadia and her anger at the U.S. over treatment of Iraqis and Palestinians. Step by step she becomes involved in a plotting a terrorist attack, though her intentions are often far from religious. In the end she must make what is, for her, a difficult choice.

Ms. Jolin did show Nadia's progression toward terrorism, but I still don't understand how a serious, religious school girl can change so quickly. The triggers were there, but I'm not sure they were strong enough.

Nadia's main fault, as I saw the book, is that she is very self-righteous. This continues also until the end. It was annoying--but would she volunteer to become a suicide bomber?

The author and I both have strengths and weaknesses in approaching this story. Her strength is that she has lived in the Middle East for several years. My strength is that I'm a Muslim and I see events through Muslim eyes. Maybe her portrayal of a young girl in Syria was right on the mark. I've never been to Syria so I can't say.

But, as I said, this book made me uncomfortable, and probably for the same reason I always squirm when I hear the word "terrorism." Religious Muslims are usually blamed. But as a Muslim I know that those of us who follow our religion strictly would never offer to kill innocent people.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Writing in Layers

I've mentioned that I'm working on third draft of a novel. Yet that's not completely accurate. In some places, I'm still working on the first draft.

I write in layers. First I get the story down on paper. Usually that's not much more than the bare bones of the book. I simply need to write down all the twists and turns while they're fresh in my mind. That first draft is the most intense.

Next I read through what I've written and begin to make changes. While looking through the manuscript again, I make some changes but leave some things alone, even if I know they'll need to be changed later. I'm not ready yet and I don't want to rush it.

Now, in my third draft, I'm perfecting some sentences and deleting others. I'm also finding places where content needs to be rearranged and/or the story line needs more flesh.

So I'm writing the first draft of a significant dialogue. Sometimes I cringe. I know I will change many of these sentences later. But first they need to be written. I have to put the thought of revision in the back of my mind as I forge ahead.

This dialogue will go through a few more drafts. Meanwhile, the next time I read through the manuscript I will probably find another essential change I haven't noticed before.

To me, a well-written book is one in which all of the layers come together seamlessly, not betraying the work that went into making them flow.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Getting Stuck

I am envisioning a wonderful scene, full of rich dialogue. I've written some of it. Now I'm stuck.

Or is it procrastination? Uncertainty? Self-doubt?

The scene isn't the most crucial in the book, but it is significant. And the dialogue I envision is so perfect that I'm having trouble writing it.

I was much too busy today to write anything. I thought about writing, but until 8:30 p.m. I had very little time to sit down and write at all. By then my mind was too tired. I lacked the concentration to produce the insights I imagined.

Tomorrow will be busy, but much less so. Maybe I'll wake up in the morning and know exactly where to go with this conversation. The words will flow from my fingertips.

Well. . .it could happen.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Making Time

Every writer knows this one, and can talk about it for hours. There simply is not enough time to write.

This is especially true for the full-time worker--whether toiling in a factory or raising small children. But even those of us who have (nearly) grown children and no outside jobs find trouble find time, I'm sure.

It's the little things. The phone kept on ringing. Two people I wasn't expecting appeared at our front door. I ran a quick errand which took longer than I expected and produced fewer results. I went to the library with a 14-year old who decided to use that time to browse every single book (or so it seemed). Then there was a dinner invitation from a really nice couple and I just couldn't refuse. (And she has the same name as mine!)

I did manage to write a few paragraphs today in between phone calls and doorbells. At this rate, the book will be finished by 2012--if the phone doesn't always ring this much. It's already 11 p.m. But the house is quiet now and I will probably stay up for another hour or two so I can feel a little more productive.

When I was teaching full-time I dreamed of how wonderful it would be to claim my time as my own. My life is much easier now. I can't deny that. But there's always something.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


We went out tonight, which is why I'm blogging much later than usual. During a quiet moment in the restaurant, I wrote this blog in my mind. Now I can't remember a single word.

It happens too often. Walking into a room and pausing, having to retrace my steps. Starting a conversation and forgetting what I wanted to say. Writing in my mind and forgetting to put the words on paper.

This is beyond the use of mnemonics (I've always liked that word). This takes extra measures.

Many writers carry journals or small notebooks with them wherever they go. That sounds like an excellent idea. I can find something small enough to fit into my purse. Though I'm always losing pens. Maybe I could wear one around my neck!

My memories of the past help me write. Now if I could just remember what it was I wanted to write about.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"Devil's Advocate"

I like the meaning behind this phrase, though not the phrase itself. Unfortunately, I can't think of any substitutes.

Have you ever done this with your characters? I'm in the middle of doing this to one of mine.

He's a young man. A very sincere Muslim. He's grown up fairly protected by doting parents. But he's on his own. And he has found an ally in a very unfriendly world. The problem is that the ally proclaims himself to be an atheist.

How can our young Muslim learn to communicate Islam with this man? How can he hope to convince him?

The old man plays "devil's advocate." Along the way, the young man learns. Islam is more than rituals and phrases. His faith deepens as he works to teach the old atheist.

I enjoy writing dialogue. And I'm getting a lot of satisfaction from this particular story line. I especially like watching the young man mature into a stronger faith.

Monday, October 01, 2007

How Long Does it Take to Write a Novel?

This question may be as enigmatic as the old, "How many licks to the center of a Tootsie roll pop?"

Many will say years, or at least months. Of course, we need to define what we mean by "write a novel."

I wrote the first draft for Rebounding in only two weeks. But it took me another year to complete all the necessary revisions. My typical time for writing a novel is a month, give or take a week. But again, the revisions take much longer.

When I write the first draft of a novel, I concentrate on it completely. My family muddles by without me. I have no life away from the keyboard. I dream of my characters. Plot twists come to me at the oddest times. I am totally immersed.

It's a wonderful experience, in a way, but it is so intense that I can't keep it up for much more than a month. And there are times when I deliberately will not start a novel because I know I have something coming up which needs my attention. For instance, in two weeks my mother, sisters, and two of my nieces will come to visit. I couldn't possibly start a novel now. If I did, I would have to completely ignore my family when they're here.

So how long does it take? That's something each of us has to answer.

P.S.--Speaking of writing novels. The sign-up for the privilege of completing a novel in the month of November begins today. 50,000 words. Can you do it? If so, go to